America’s Cops Have an Out-Of-Control Kill Rate (Against All Colors and Creeds)
You'd have to travel to a Third World Banana Republic to find police this trigger-happy
Editor’s note: This is a text from 2015. Literally for decades particularly libertarians, but also some conservatives and a few leftists, tried drawing attention to the incredibly high kill rates by US police when compared to cops in Europe or Asia, but the fashionably liberal were simply not interested — until they figured out they could hijack the issue to make it solely about race, and therefore into a cudgel to beat their culture war enemies with.
Black neighborhoods, particularly in the North, are historically over-policed and subject to police harassment for pre-crime (loitering…) and victimless nonsense (but under-policed for actual heavy-duty property and violent crime) that feels more like an occupation than anything else. It means that blacks on average have more interactions with police. But when they interact with non-blacks, US cops are also far more likely to pull the trigger than police in Europe.
This weekend, police in Long Beach, California shot and killed Feras Morad, a 20 year old college student who was on a balcony and unarmed, and police outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma shot and killed Nehemiah Fischer, a 35-year-old pastor when they were “rescuing” him from his flooded pickup truck. We hear of these and other high profile cases of police killings in Baltimore, Charleston, Ferguson or Staten Island — but few look at the larger picture of how often American citizens are killed by the very people they pay to protect them.
Journalists with both the Washington Postand the Guardian are organizing an important databases of fatal police shootings with information about the victims’ age, gender, location, race, and other circumstances. This is a tremendous step to shed light on the understudied question of how many people police kill.
The Washington Post focuses on fatal police shootings and watchdog organization Killed By Police includes all deaths at the hands of police; both help us calculate the rate at which police kill. In the United States, the overall homicide rate is 5 per 100,000. That means out of any given 100,000 Americans, five will be victims and (ignoring for the moment, perpetrators of multiple homicide) five people will commit homicide.
But what is the rate at which police kill citizens? Although official statistics have historically been scant, we now know that police killed 1,100 Americans in 2014 and 476 Americans in the first five months of 2015. Given that America has roughly 765,000 sworn police officers, that means the police-against-citizen kill rate is more than 145 per 100,000.
Let us put that into perspective. In most countries in Europe the national homicide rate is 1 per 100,000, so that means American police kill at 145 times the rate of the average European citizen. The two most violent countries in the world are Venezuela and Honduras with national homicide rates of 54 and 90 per 100,000. The U.S. government issues travel warnings stating: “The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high” and “violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive.” If you are not comfortable vacationing in those countries, it is little wonder why so many Americans are uncomfortable with police who kill at more than 1.5 and 2.5 times the homicide rates of the two most violent countries.
The American police kill rate also compares poorly to the police kill rates in other countries. Nationwide in England and Wales, Netherlands, and Scandinavian countries police average killing less than two people per year, giving police kill rates between a high of 9 per 100,000 in Denmark and a low of 1.6 per 100,000 in England and Wales.
That means American police are killing citizens at a rate 15 times higher than police in Denmark and 90 times higher than police in England and Wales.
For the first quarter of 2015, police in England and Wales have shot and killed a total of zero people, whereas American police killed 392 citizens in that time period. That rate is 205 kills per 100,000 police, infinitely higher than the zero in the land we once rebelled against for having standing armies on our soil. Last year police in Japan killed zero and police in Iceland reportedly have killed one person in their entire history.
Some argue that most deaths by police are justified and the victims deserved it. We know, for example, that Eric Garner in Staten Island was likely guilty of selling untaxed cigarettes; Michael Brown in Ferguson was likely guilty of shoplifting cigarillos; Walter Scott in Charleston was guilty of fleeing after being stopped for having a broken taillight; and Freddie Gray was caught with knife that was legal in Maryland but not in Baltimore. But since when should guilt for any of those crimes warrant a death penalty?
And why should police be allowed to be the judge, jury, and actual executioner in each case? In recent months Americans, particularly those in lower income communities more likely to be victimized by police, are speaking out against deaths at the hands of police, as they should.
What can be done to reduce the high rate of kill rate committed by American police? In Britain, Ireland, Norway, Iceland and New Zealand almost all police do not carry guns and the police kill rates are much lower there. Countries like Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden also have 20 to 40 percent fewer police officers per capita and homicide rates are lower in those countries too. Having so many armed police need not be a permanent fixture of American society.
Another option is to rely more on private security and private policing as alternatives to government police. Places like Massachusetts allow certain communities like Harvard University or Massachusetts General Hospital to hire their own fully deputized private police. Crime rates in those communities are low and I know of no examples of private police killing citizens there. The entire state of North Carolina also allows for fully deputized private police who are able to police the properties of their employers. They must be bonded and insured and they don’t have the same police immunity or get the out-of-jail-free cards of government police. I document some other examples of private police in my book, “Private Governance“, being published by Oxford University Press this month, and I argue they are a more humane alternative.
As Ronald Reagan stated, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help” — and the recent discontent with police is an indication that he was onto something.
A police-against-citizen homicide rate of 145 of 100,000 per year is unconscionable and should not continue.
Source: New York Daily News